Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Extract from Maimonides’s Will
By Moses Maimonides (1135–1204)
FEAR the Lord, but love him also; for fear only restrains a man from sin, while love stimulates him to good….  1
  Accustom yourselves to habitual goodness; for a man’s character is what habit makes it…. The perfection of the body is a necessary antecedent to the perfection of the soul; for health is the key that unlocks the inner chamber. When I bid you attend to your bodily and moral welfare, my object is to open for you the gates of heaven…. Measure your words; for the more your words, the more your errors. Ask for explanations of what you do not understand; but let it be done at a fitting moment and in fitting language…. Speak in refined language, in clear utterance and gentle voice. Speak aptly to the subject, as one who wishes to learn and to find the truth, not as one whose aim is to quarrel and to conquer…. Learn in your youth, when your food is prepared by others, while heart is still free and unincumbered with cares, ere the memory is weakened. For the time will come when you will be willing to learn but will be unable. Even if you be able, you will labor much for little result; for your heart will lag behind your lips, and when it does keep pace, it will soon forget…. If you find in the Law or the Prophets or the Sages a hard saying which you cannot understand, which appears subversive of some principle of the religion, or altogether absurd, stand fast by your faith, and attribute the fault to your own want of intelligence. Despise not your religion because you are unable to understand one difficult matter…. Love truth and uprightness,—the ornaments of the soul,—and cleave to them; prosperity so obtained is built on a sure rock. Keep firmly to your word; let not a legal contract or witness be more binding than your verbal promise even privately made. Disdain reservation and subterfuges, sharp practices and evasions. Woe to him who builds his house thereon!… Bring near those that are far off; humble yourselves to the lowly and show them the light of your countenance. In your joys make the desolate share, but put no one to the blush by your gifts…. I have seen the white become black, the low brought still lower, families driven into exile, princes deposed from their high estate, cities ruined, assemblies dispersed, all on account of quarrelsomeness. Glory in forbearance, for in that is true strength and victory. Speech, which distinguishes man from beasts, was a loving gift, which man uses best in thinking, and thanking and praising God. Ungraceful should we be to return evil for good, and to utter slanders or falsehoods…. Eat not excessively or ravenously. Work before you eat, and rest afterwards. From a man’s behavior at a public meal you can discern his character. Often have I returned hungry and thirsty to my house, because I was afraid when I saw the disgraceful conduct of those around me…. The total abstinence from wine is good, but I will not lay this on you as an injunction. Yet break wine’s power with water, and drink it for nourishment, not for mere enjoyment…. At gambling the player always loses. Even if he wins money, he is weaving a spider’s web round himself…. Dress as well as your means will allow, but spend on your food less than you can afford…. Honor your wives, for they are your honor. Withhold not discipline from them, and let them not rule over you.  2

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